Important planning process for Columbia-Snake dams could start before election

A coalition of 33 conservation and sport fishing groups, including Idaho Rivers United, is worried that federal agencies managing dams on the Columbia and Snake rivers are establishing plans that would take the public out of an important public process.

The groups sent an Aug. 30 letter to the Bonneville Power Administration, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and Bureau of Reclamation that asks the agencies to take a little more time before starting a high-profile environmental process that examines dam operations on the Columbia and Snake rivers in light of a May 5 federal court ruling.

"Our ask is simple--to be given a meaningful opportunity to participate in the scoping process," the groups wrote. "Specifically, we request that you not schedule public comment and hearings for this process over the election and holidays."

The groups specifically asked for a public comment period of no less than 90 days that includes a series of public hearings throughout the region to commence in January 2017. That could happen regardless of when the official scoping period opens.

If public hearings start sooner, however, people who care about recovering endangered salmon and steelhead and stopping taxpayer waste on the lower Snake River will need to be prepared to weigh in, and soon, on behalf of river restoration.

IRU and our allies are hopeful, however, that we can engage in a meaningful process early in 2017 rather than a rushed process that's overshadowed by a high-profile election cycle and holiday season.

"We share the sense of urgency and time-sensitive need to review the environmental impacts of the Columbia and Snake River federal dams in order to inform a lawful plan that protects endangered wild salmon and steelhead," they wrote. "However, we do not support sacrificing quality review and meaningful participation for administrative expedience--and we believe no such sacrifice is necessary here."

Click here to download the coalition's letter.